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The Qatar crisis of last week is likely to deepen and continue to dominate the agenda on the world stage. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE were first to declare that they will cut all economic and political ties with - the small but petrol-rich - Qatar on 5 June. This number has now increased to 12 countries with Yemen, Libya, the Maldives and Niger joining them at the weekend.
What are the real factors in this crisis? Why is Qatar footing the bill, when other Gulf countries, such as the UAE, have a much larger volume of trade with Iran. Atacan is one of the Academics for Peace; one of signatories of a petition released in January calling for an end to violence in the south-east Turkey.
How did the crisis start? I cannot quite understand why they are so ruthless on Qatar. I do think two important points must be the focus on. The first is to achieve unity against Iran; Saudi Arabia is leading on this and the US support is clear.
The second is to create a uniform block against some Islamic movements. This is a very shallow argument. There is a very important aspect; Saudi Arabia has a serious Shiite problem as it has a Shiite population.
The majority of the population in Bahrain is Shiite and other Gulf countries also have Shiites in their population. Iranian Islamic Revolution in was a big threat to the region; they were worried about the potential for the Khomeini perspective mobilising their Shiite population with citizenship problems and bring down the monarchies. This was understandable and the source of opposition to Iran. We are faced with the same issue today. This was not discussed much in Turkey but during the Arab Spring of , there were also uprisings in the Gulf countries.
For example, Saudi Arabia with the help of the Gulf Cooperation Council sent soldiers to help quell the uprising in Bahrain, claiming it was a Shiite uprising provoked by Iran. Yet, the demand in Bahrain was equal citizenship. It was inevitable that the rebels were Shiites as the majority of the population is. They took the same side as Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, it is felt deeper in Saudi Arabia in comparison to other Gulf states due to Wahhabism.
Wahhabism does not except Shiism as Islam; there is also a religious attitude that is very harsh in dealing with Shiites. This religious attitude legitimises discrimination. Hence, while they target Iran, they also suppress the demands of their own Shiite population….
Attempts to assimilate the Shiite population has always been a tense affair. Shiite movements were closer to more left-wing movements during the 60s and the 70s but stood closer to Islamic movements towards the end of the 70s.
However, faced with inherent discrimination within the Saudi population and the state apparatus, their main demand is equal citizenship. It is very hard for the Saudi leadership to meet this demand as it is not possible to balance it with Wahhabism.
That is why the Bahrain uprising was seen as a primary threat; that is why they see Yemen as a threat today. But why is this carried out over Qatar? Why was Qatar the target but not Iran? What is behind the stated reasons? The main concern is to encircle Iran, push Iran to take back its steps in Syria and Iraq. Beyond that, to encircle Russia. Therefore, we need to see Qatar in the light of many layered conflicts.
When we look at the first layer we see a conflict between Qatar, Saudi Arabia and many other Gulf countries but in reality, it is a conflict where many layered conflicts are crystallised. That is why the bombings in Iran must alarm everyone.
It is extremely dangerous…. Map of the U. This shows that we enter a period of renewed upheaval, killing and bombing. This an altogether different problem for Iran. This rings other alarm bells. And unfortunately, it is the peoples of the Middle East that pay the price. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey were seen vital to this attempt. It seems the problems between three of them are almost completely solved; the only persistent problem seems to be Turkey.
Turkey made peace with Israel; despite some minor conflicts, the relationship with the Saudis is not bitter; there are some issues with Egypt but we are open to economic activity.
If you put Sisi aside, there is no distinct disagreement. As such, this axis is almost completely established. Some claim that the Qatar crisis can be concluded as a restricted exercise in re-alignment yet some argue that a Sunni-Shiite war is more likely than ever before. Do you think the likelihood of this is increased? Religion is always very effective in manipulating events ideologically. Especially in civil wars, you start forgetting the real reasons after a while and it turns into a Sunni-Shiite conflict.
That is why the bombings in Iran are very dangerous and concerning. If it continues on this course it will escalate; yet another disaster for the peoples of the region.
Turkey's parliament approved to deploy troops in Qatar. This where the second dimension of the crisis, the concern to create a uniform block against some Islamic movements, comes into play. It seems that the main target is the Muslim Brotherhood and all its organisations, not only in Egypt but in all Arab countries. Saudi Arabia had problems with the Brotherhood in the past, it still has.
Hence this is an attempt to push back against this movement, to control it. There are members of the Brotherhood in Qatar but Hamas is emphasised. The explanation is not the fact that it worries the Saudis but Israel! Hamas effects Egypt through the indirect pressure it receives because of Gazza but Hamas is primarily the problem of Israel.
Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood are singled out rather that the likes of Al-Qaida. There is no logic, as there is no uniform organisation in the Arab world. Hence, it is not possible to speak of a Muslim Brotherhood that is uniformly widespread and acting in unison. There are no representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood on the list.
It is clear that Egypt had a hand in drawing up this list. We know of the conflict between Sisi and the Brotherhood; it continues and most of the members and leaders of the Brotherhood are still in prison. So, the names from the Brotherhood on the list were selected; we should be aware of why some were chosen over others. It is certain that allies of Saudi Arabia influenced the list. But this is not the final list; it will change. The last four-five years have shown that this is a period where alliances are easily formed and dissolved.
You could see a new list next year. Do you agree? Firstly, considering the Salafi-jihadi organisations that it supports, Saudi Arabia is in no position to label anyone as terrorists! AKP attempts to make this symbol useful does not seem to be successful within the population of Turkey.
As I said, the Brotherhood is not a uniform organisation and the primary organisations targeted are Egyptian, Palestine and Libyan Ikhwan. The reflection of this in Turkey means a situation of high tensions with limited room for manoeuvre. Considering how far he has been pushed to the periphery and an Islamic world of increasing conflicts and constantly changing alliances, how sensible is it to speak of the unity of the Muslim ummah?
And who makes up the ummah? Are the Shiites a part of it? Achieving unity of the ummah is an old dream but it is only that; a dream. Still, this dream can be used to appeal to especially the conservative circles.
It has no reality beyond that. What do you think of this support for Qatar, criticised by the opposition? Turkey has been dancing around this issue and not very successfully for a long time. They are not taking a direct stance against the Saudis or the US; a position that could allow changing its allegiance away from Qatar.
What would the consequences of turning away from Qatar be? What would be the cost of giving in to the US and the Saudis? Is it possible to follow a line that balances relationships with the likes of Russia, the US, Iran and the Saudis?
These are valid questions. It is not possible to please everyone; if this what Turkey is trying to do, it is a futile attempt. I am sure decision makers are well aware of this; even if they are not, they will be made aware.
This is what Qatar is experiencing now. Is this what worries the AKP leadership? There is enough for anyone to use against another. However, this is not what reawakens the fears; we know it, everyone else knows it, governments know it.
Fulya Atacan: A new period of upheaval in the Middle East
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